+manics albums: no. 5+

Time to round out the bottom half of the list. I now present to you my fifth favorite studio album by the Manic Street Preachers.

NUMBER FIVE: THIS IS MY TRUTH TELL ME YOURS (August 25, 1998 )
Favorite Tracks: If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next; The Everlasting; Tsunami; Nobody Loved You

Having listened to This Is My Truth and Send Away the Tigers back to back in the car this week, I had the sneaking suspicion that I had made an error in ranking Truth higher than Tigers. If I’m honest, I’d probably rather listen to Tigers on a more regular basis. It has far more plays on my iTunes, and it’s a short, peppy record that lends itself to many repeat listenings. But… Truth absolutely has some classics on it. Alright, it has THE Manics classic on it: If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next. And that is enough for me to rank this album where it is.

I first heard of the Manic Street Preachers on the U2 fansite Interference. A friend of mine on the forum there from Singapore was always raving about their music. I have always respected this friend’s taste in music, so when the Manics came on while I was listening online to a British radio station, I paid close attention. “Tolerate” was one of the first songs I heard by the band, and I was absolutely smitten. This led to me buy their greatest hits, and so on, culminating in my current state of uberfandom. I even learned to play “Tolerate” on the guitar, and to this day, I can say that it is my very favorite song by the band. Whether it’s the full version with the strings or a passionate acoustic version with James alone, I have never gotten tired of this epic song, a song about war that paints a very bleak picture for the future if we cannot change our ways. But despite its bleakness, the song is painfully beautiful. And that’s just the beginning of why I like This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours.

The entire album is filled with epic songs in the same vein as “Tolerate,” beginning with “The Everlasting.” That song makes me feel so tranquil, and the guitar solo is one of JDB’s best. I still think it might make a better closer than an opener for a record, but I’m always pleased to hear it nonetheless. “Tsunami” is another classic hit that makes this album worthwhile, even though it took me a long time to come around to this song. Only after I read what the song was about did it begin to have meaning for me. (The story behind the song is eloquently summarized here over at the Annotated Manics website.) “Nobody Loved You” is another favorite of mine. Usually it’s the lyrics that draw me into a song, but it was the grandiose chorus of “Nobody Loved You” that has made me listen to this song again and again.

Listening to This Is My Truth again this past week, I realized that what I love about the record is also its greatest weakness, namely, the epic sounds that pervade the songs. Lots of big choruses, lots of orchestra, lots of slow, drawn out, escalating sounds. Those who know me know that I am a sucker for an epic sounding song, but by the end of this record, even I have had enough and need a little 4/4 time, some feedback, and some vicious banging of drums. The Manics used this epic sound in the best way possible on “Tolerate” and “The Everlasting,” but perhaps the long, sweeping strokes are less effective on “You’re Tender and You’re Tired” and “S.Y.M.M.” Not that I don’t like most of the songs on this album; I just find the overall piece lacking in variety. There are no rockers here along the lines of “Underdogs” or anything from The Holy Bible. Just lots of big sounds, dreamy backing vocals, and violins. Nothing wrong with that in essence, but by the end of this album I feel like I need to hear JDB screaming and wailing on the guitar every once and a while for things to be right with the world.

Looking at the cover art, we see three men dressed in white. James looks like he’s just found out he locked his keys in his car (as Simon Price so brilliantly states in his book Everything: A Book About Manic Street Preachers). Sean looks like he’s never felt so awkward, and Nicky looks like he should be playing shuffleboard at a retirement resort. The title of the album probably lends itself to some more meaningful art than just this strange photograph of the band.

Still, with the writing of “Tolerate,” the band achieved something incredibly special on this album. They officially broke into the mainstream and proved that they could write a meaningful song while still appealing to a wide audience (the song debuted at #1 in the UK). Sure, to some fans they sold out, but if it weren’t for the overwhelming popularity of Manics hits like “Tolerate,” I would probably never have heard of the Manics. And quite frankly, I don’t even want to think about that possibility.

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~ by Jennifer Cunningham on August 17, 2008.

One Response to “+manics albums: no. 5+”

  1. Here’s what I think: If they would’ve plugged in “Prologue to History” in place of “S.Y.M.M.” and “Buildings For Dead People” in place of something like “Born a Girl”, this would’ve been the best Manics album. As it is, I guess it’s my number three album of theirs.

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